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Novelists, Poets, and Short Fiction Writers TAKE NOTE
Let’s be honest—submitting your writing to literary magazines is a TON of work. At Writer’s Relief, we know researching and prepping one single submission can eat up hours of your precious writing time. But if you want to build a reputation as a writer, the effort is TOTALLY worth it.
Today, we’ll show you around the publishing world and review all the ways submitting your writing to literary journals and magazines can advance your writing career (in ways you never could have expected!).
First, we’ll look at the most common reason why some writers want to submit their poems, short stories, and essays to literary magazines: to make money!
Will You Get Rich Submitting Your Writing To Literary Journals?
Friend, if your hope is to make lots of money publishing poems, short stories, or essays, you may want to be sitting down for this.
Many writers dream of submitting their creative writing to literary journals and magazines in order to make a little bit of extra cash. And it might seem like the number one advantage of submitting for publication would be getting paid.
Unfortunately, the primary benefits of publishing in literary journals are not financial. Publishing short prose and poetry probably isn’t going to pay off your mortgage.
Here’s why: Literary magazines have limited resources. Many literary journals are backed by government grants and private subsidies. And a good number of journal budgets are determined by finance committees at colleges and universities.
Income from subscriptions can help support an independent publication, but subscription rates are not astoundingly high for literary magazines (at least not when compared to periodicals like O or Better Homes and Gardens). Be sure to subscribe to or donate to literary journals whenever you can!
So more often than not, literary journals are unable to pay their writers.
Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Literary magazines exist to showcase writings (and sometimes artwork) that would otherwise be unable to reach an audience.
If not for literary magazines, there would be almost NO market for short stories, poetry, and personal essays. Most editors would LOVE to pay writers, but they just can’t. And when editors do have a budget to pay writers, it’s usually very small.
If money is what you’re after, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! But publishing in literary magazines may not be the way to go. Here are some ideas: 8 Ways To Make Money With Your Short Stories, Poems, And Personal Essays.
So, if you can’t make money, what’s the point of submitting for publication? You can bet your library card there are some very good reasons!
I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.—Maya Angelou
What Are The Career Advantages Of Publishing With Literary Magazines?
Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.—Chris Grosser
- You don’t need a formal background in English or a creative writing MFA to have a future as a writer. Launching your writing career with “small” literary journals and then building toward “bigger” periodicals is a great way to gain your footing in the publishing world.
- Publications in literary magazines make your CV and resume look much more impressive—no matter what field you’re in.
- You get the experience of working with (and learning from) an editor, which can help you become a better writer.
- You get to connect with new people—and networking is never a waste of time.
- Every time you score an acceptance letter from an editor at a literary journal, you gather proof that your writing is in demand. When one editor takes note of you, others tend to follow suit.
- Publication credits in reputable literary journals provide evidence that you are writing high-quality material at a professional level.
- Publication credits in literary journals give you “street cred” when you are pitching writing conference seminars or hoping to promote a new self-published book at a local library. If you’re hoping to position yourself as an expert in your field who is able to teach others, literary publication credits lend proof of your expertise.
8. When you tweet and post on social media about your latest acceptance letters and publication credits, you establish a reputation for yourself as a writer worth noting. It’s nice to have something to share on the News page of your author website
9. Publications in literary journals can make you a more appealing prospect when you are applying to MA or MFA programs in creative writing (they look great for other graduate programs as well!).
A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.—Francis Bacon
Is It Better To Publish In Print Or In Online Literary Magazines?
Any publication credit in a reputable literary magazine is a boon to your writing career. But is it more advantageous to try to get your work into print than to see it posted online?
In the old days, print publications had a certain cachet that start-up Internet literary magazines could only dream of. But these days, online literary journals as well as digital anthologies and e-books have solidly taken their place in the halls of respected periodicals.
Although it’s a wonderful feeling to receive a package containing a physical copy of a journal that showcases your writing, the practical advantages of pursuing online publication over print publication are definitely worth your consideration.
Here Are 13 Ways Getting Published In An Online Literary Magazine Can Advance Your Writing Career!
Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.—Bobby Unser
- You will be “Googleable.” Every time your byline appears in an online literary magazine, it shows up in search engine results as well. Literary agents and editors will Google your name if your creative writing intrigues them; having an online presence suggests you are on your way as a writer. Learn more about how to garner more search engine results for your name.
- A linked list of online publications on your author website makes it easy for people to browse your writing and become familiar with your work. Obviously, that isn’t possible if your best short stories, poems, and personal essays are available only in print journals sitting on physical shelves.
- Another advantage to linkable content: You can post links to your creative writing on social media so potential new fans can click through and read. If you post a link to a page that requires potential readers to buy a subscription in order to read your story, you might be losing an opportunity to make a fan.
- Many online literary journals are willing to post a link to your author website in the biography section of their magazine. That’s good news for your link-building efforts: The more sites that link to your writer website, the more popular—and visible—you will be in search engine results.
- More and more people are reading digital content. And in many circumstances, your creative writing will have a wider reach when it is published online (as opposed to being restricted to the physical medium of a printed journal).
- Your work has longevity when it appears on the Internet. Physical books go out of print, but unless the literary journal that published your writing shutters its doors, your short story, poem, or essay will be available in an online magazine’s archives indefinitely.
We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Few brick-and-mortar bookstores carry printed literary journals. Those that do must rotate their stock regularly every time new additions appear. The physical issue in which your writing is published will have a relatively short shelf life. But again, it could appear online forever.
- When you consider literary journals that publish online, you open up many more opportunities for your writing than if you restrict yourself to print magazines only. Why? Because more and more literary magazines are going online, even respected journals that previously offered print versions.
- Literary journals are increasingly interactive. Many are embracing multimedia offerings like podcasts or recorded readings. Others are growing their numbers through active social media usage. What does this mean for you? When literary magazine editors or PR interns are active online, they are spreading the word about your creative writing. And you can return the favor by spreading the word about them.
We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency. Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value. —Pete Cashmore, Founder of mashable.com
- Sometimes, editors of digital literary journals are more willing to take a risk on an unpublished writer because the financial investment of publishing online is less than the investment of publishing in print.
- Online publishing saves trees. We love trees.
- Online publications can launch new issues more quickly than print publications—which means less wait time between your acceptance letter and seeing your work published.
- Online literary magazines sometimes have their own e-publishing independent presses, which means it is sometimes possible to use your new connections to advance the publication of your book.
Thanks to the advent of online publishing, there are more opportunities for writers to publish their work than ever before. But how can you keep track of all the different literary journals out there?
The private database here at Writer’s Relief has an up-to-date, comprehensive list of hundreds (and hundreds!) of online literary magazines and print journals. Our submission strategy experts have been helping creative writers get published in literary journals and magazines since 1994. If you’re interested in getting help with your submission process, please do reach out!
The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.—Douglas MacArthur
But if you prefer to take a DIY approach to making submissions to literary magazines, be sure to check out our Writers Classifieds. There you’ll find accurate, vetted, easy-to-skim market listings of literary journals, anthology calls for submissions, and much more.
Book Authors: Literary Magazine Publication Advantages Just For You
Whether you’re writing a novel or a memoir, having publications in reputable literary journals may help you get a book deal. Writers who can boast about publication of shorter works tend to have a smoother time securing a literary agent’s interest.
Do you absolutely need to have short works published in order to land a literary agent? Nope. Maybe not. But could it help? We think so.
- Being published in literary journals establishes that you have taken the time to learn some of the etiquette of the publishing industry. You also show that you can work with editors on a professional level, stick to your goals, and manage deadlines.
- When a literary agent notices that editors and readers are taking real interest in your creative writing, he or she will be more likely to take interest as well.
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.—William B. Sprague
- Having some publishing credentials in the independent presses market may help you get a leg up on the competition. Let’s say an agent is pitched two books of equal quality—with the only difference being that one author has a history of publishing short creative writing and the other doesn’t. In this situation, the agent may be inclined to request more information from the writer who can show some publication credits.
- Getting a book published can take a really long time. In the meantime, acceptance letters from literary magazines can go a long way toward keeping you motivated.
- Literary agents actively search for new clients in reputable magazines. Really! It is a regular occurrence within the publishing industry for writers to find themselves approached by literary agents who are scouting for new recruits among the pages of literary journals.
At Writer’s Relief we often help our clients build their publishing portfolios as they work toward securing literary agent representation.
If You Are Hoping To Publish A Collection, You REALLY Need To Know THIS
Short story collections, poetry collections, and essay collections are especially difficult to place for writers who have not published any of the works within a collection.
It’s never too late to be what you might have been.—George Eliot
Because collections of poems, stories, and essays are generally not as profitable as other books, agents and editors may feel better about a book’s sales potential when a writer can prove some pre-existing popularity within the literary magazine market.
But here’s good news: There are literally thousands of journals and literary magazines out there. Connecting with the right literary magazine editor is possible! You just have to know where to look.
(Hint: If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the submission process, we may be able to help.)
Surprising True Stories From Writers Who Submitted To Literary Magazines
Here at Writer’s Relief, our job is to help our clients get published in literary journals and magazines (we also help writers connect with literary agents). Since 1994, we have seen many writers benefit from their connections with literary magazines.
And sometimes, even we have been surprised by how beneficial the writer/editor relationship can be!
Here are just a few of the many surprising benefits of getting published in literary journals that our clients have reported to us:
- Our clients are regularly nominated for major creative writing awards because of the literary journal submissions they make with us, but this story is one of our favorites. We once accepted a 100% unpublished client who had no experience in the publishing industry—but we really liked his short stories. After we targeted his very FIRST story to a round of literary magazines, he received an acceptance letter in the mail (yay!). As if that wasn’t reason enough to cheer, the editor of that literary magazine then proceeded to nominate our client for the Best New American Short Stories anthology (hooray again!). Will it surprise you to learn that he WON a prestigious spot in the anthology? (Yay times three!)
- You could discover a career-changing relationship with an editor. One of our clients received an acceptance letter from a literary magazine. Pretty standard. Over time, the writer and editor worked together to polish the short story for publication in the literary journal. Then, the editor encouraged the writer to enter the story into a specific writing contest—and amazingly, the story won! The writer received a cash prize and a whole lot of bragging rights. Read more: 6 Signs Your Writing Has A Good Shot At Winning A Writing Contest.
I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.—Thomas Jefferson
- As mentioned before, getting published in a literary journal is especially helpful to writers who are hoping to connect with a literary agent. Our writers regularly receive queries from literary agents—as opposed to the other way around. You might be surprised how often this happens! Literary agents often check out literary journals to find up-and-coming new writers.
- You could be singled out in a good way. One of our clients submitted a group of poems to a literary journal, hoping that one of them would be accepted. Instead, the journal accepted ALL of the poems. And if that’s not enough, the editors also dedicated an entire featured section of their publication to our client and his work.
- You could be invited to give a reading. Some of our clients have been invited by editors to read their creative writing at prominent literary events. In this case, a simple submission to a literary magazine led to great exposure and networking opportunities.
- Many literary journals host writing contests as fund-raisers, and contest entrants must pay a fee to submit. But some literary journals automatically enter all accepted submissions into the contests they host—and those writers are not required to pay a fee. We’ve seen multiple clients win reputable contests they didn’t pay to enter!
Think You Have To Be “Lucky” To Get Published In A Literary Journal?
For creative writers, the key to making the most of your opportunities within the publishing industry is to knock on as many doors as you can. Some will stay shut—some will swing open—and some will benefit you with amazing new possibilities.
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.—Milton Berle
When your creative writing is constantly circulating within the literary magazine market, you are increasing the possibility of putting yourself in the right place at the right time.
Here Are Some General Tips For Submission To Literary Journals And Magazines
Create a doable submission strategy that works (or just copy ours).
Start small and work your way up. Publishing industry professionals know that most writers “pay their dues” in smaller journals before they make it to the big leagues. And never shortchange the career-building possibilities of a small literary journal. There are surprising advantages to thinking small when it comes to approaching literary magazines.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.—Robert Collier
Follow submission guidelines. In our experience, most editors report that their number one pet peeve is a writer’s failure to follow submission guidelines.
Embrace industry-standard formatting. Very few things say “newbie” like enormous margins and fancy fonts. Industry-standard formatting may be dull, but it is practical. Keep your formatting simple and make sure your proofreading can survive professional scrutiny. Here’s where you can find help proofreading and formatting your manuscripts for literary magazine submissions.
Submit to the proper person. Most of the time, you will be able to locate the name of the proper editor for your submission by reading the literary magazine’s website and guidelines. “Dear editor” is a last resort.
Research carefully. Don’t waste time blindly submitting to any old publication that happens to be reading. Find the perfect home for your work by submitting to magazines and journals that publish work that is similar to yours.
There is no royal, flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it. For if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard.—C.J. Walker
Don’t Stop Now: Learn More!
Streamline your DIY submission system with our Writers Classifieds. There you’ll find accurate, sortable, skimmable creative writing market listings.
Learn more about how Writer’s Relief can help you get published in literary journals or connect with the literary agent of your dreams.